Green Home Building and Sustainable Architecture

Sustainable architecture is an exciting and important field, with many people reviving traditional methods of building and others creating innovations to established practices. Kelly Hart, webmaster of the popular website www.greenhomebuilding.com, posts text and photos featuring what he discovers from around the world.

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Location: Crestone, Colorado, United States

Kelly Hart has been involved with green building concepts for much of his life. He has also worked in various fields of communication media, including still photography, cinematography, animation, video production and now website development. Kelly has lived in an earthbag/papercrete home that he built and consults about sustainable building design.

January 03, 2009

Oil and electricity consumption is down in the U.S.

I am very encouraged by recent under reported news about a significant drop in the consumption of electricity and oil in the United States this last year. In a November article in the Wall Street Journal it is explained that “an unexpected drop in U.S. electricity consumption has utility companies worried that the trend isn't a byproduct of the economic downturn, and could reflect a permanent shift in consumption that will require sweeping change in their industry.”

Apparently the demand for electricity has been increasing at a rate of 1%-2% annually for decades, but this last year various utility companies have reported a decline of between 3% and 9% across the country. This of course makes it difficult for the utilities to plan for future demand. While milder weather and economic slow-down obviously have their impact, some of this lessening demand must be attributed to a conscious desire on the public to curb energy use.

According to Index Mundi, the world-wide trend for electricity consumption has continued upward at a rate of nearly 3% over last year however, so we should not be too quick to congratulate ourselves as a species. Still the U.S. used nearly a quarter of all electricity generated in the world last year, so this figure would normally have been much higher.

Worldwide oil use, however, has actually declined by a quarter of a percent this year, and this trend is projected to continue in 2009. In the U.S. the decline has been 5.8% over last year. Some of this drop can be attributed to the fact that Americans have reduced the number of miles driven by 3.5% over the previous year, and this trend has continued despite the lower fuel costs lately.

A lot of the commentary about these declines is lamenting the fact that economies are faltering and projections for an upturn are bleak. I look at these trends as good news however. There is only one way to begin to address the much bleaker prospects of global warming and the loss of global resources, and that is to change to way we use energy and consume things in general…and that is beginning to happen. The cold fact is that economic reality drives much of what happens in the world, so while it is often hard to accept, in the end a slowing economy may be our salvation!

I think that Barack Obama’s idea for jump starting the US economy through investment in green industry, especially for energy, is wise. If jobs can be created while developing an infrastructure that is less dependent on fossil fuel and more reliant on renewable energy, then everyone worldwide will benefit.